This morning I stepped into the thick sauna of the backyard garden to steep for a moment in the semi-tropical paradise my boyfriend has planted in his slice of Texas heaven. He is planning to put in another mimosa tree next to the patio, which will be so lovely.
The one we already have is something I enjoy simply staring at with its fluffy pink flowers and green fronds. It’s been raining here for weeks, spurring full-throated chortles after dark from happy toads and frogs. After a full day, watching a rosy sunset and then nightfall drop over a big palm in the distance always calms me. The garden soothes me at any time of day: with morning coffee, under the full sun (but not too long), and especially as the lazy rays of late afternoon take their dance before the onset of twilight. I’m not Southern, but I love living in the South/Texas (the latter being its own category). I love warm winters, the food, the expressions, the friendliness (yes, Northerners are friendly too, with different accents). I love the plants: hibiscus, dogwood, Texas sage, mimosas, bougainvillea, etc. When I was a kid, visiting my paternal grandparents in South Carolina was such an adventure because they had alligators, Spanish moss, cypress trees and palms as well as grits and, of course, a stack of Southern Living magazines. Now, I have lived in southeastern Texas for 10 years and it love its lushness. Well, it has been rather lush due to a rainy spring. A few years ago, we endured a drought, which inspired the planting of many drought-tolerant, native plants. The local fauna and flora are very different from the hardwoods and mammals of my New Jersey youth. Here we regularly see armadillo, toads, lizards, etc.
On hunting trips in various parts of Texas, I have seen astoundingly beautiful birds, including roadrunners, Harris hawks, caracara, great horned owl, turkeys and, one memorable afternoon, even at least 20 red-bellied woodpeckers all at once deep in East Texas woods. Our dog Higgins, a.k.a. The Sage Leopard, has an amazing eye for spotting creatures (squirrels, of course). On one early morning walk, he floored me by guiding me toward the sound of a great-horned owl. It was at least a quarter-mile from where we had originally been standing and Higgins pulled me in the right direction. When we drew close, or about 50 yards away, he nudged my sight line upward by pointing with his snout. There, on a power line pole, was the perfect silhouette of the owl. Another time, we had a great-horned owl hanging out in the trees behind the house for several nights and the hound was going bonkers. I was just relieved the dog is big enough to not be lifted by an owl.
Higgins loves the garden just as much, if not more, than his human. He runs around and round the garden beds and sniffs plants. He watches butterflies, doves and mockingbirds. For some reason, he won’t chase the black birds. He likes to walk the parameter, guarding his domain and checking on his favorites, including lantana and echinacea. To keep the butterflies coming, my boyfriend planted a bed exclusively devoted to milkweed. The milkweed actually hides the air conditioning unit, which hums softly near the mimosa tree. The mimosa grew to create a gentle canopy, keeping that corner of the yard in its sweet embrace.
Go outside and admire at least one flower before the sun goes down.